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The root of all evil?

In the last week, the UK has been rocked by widespread violence and looting. Various commentators have remarked that these are not “riots” proper; the looters had no political cause. It was an irreligious, selfish underclass who saw an opportunity to “fill their boots”; and they took it.

Earlier today I was reading A N Wilson (formerly an outspoken and public opponent of Christianity, who in more recent times has recanted his atheism). In his article entitled “Legacy of a society that believes in nothing”, Wilson says: “At the nuttier fringes of the chattering classes there are those, like the geneticist Richard Dawkins and the journalist Christopher Hitchens, who actually believe that religion is a mental poison responsible for all the evils in the world.”

This provoked me to head over to RichardDawkins.Net to find out what commentary he-who-doesn’t-exist was giving on the looting. How would the one who blames religion for everything find a way to blame religion for all these selfish genes running amok?

What did I find? Nothing. It seems that as far as RichardDawkins.Net is concerned, nothing happened worth commenting on. Did I fail to look in the right place?

I dropped by the National Secular Society, for their response. How would those who believe that godlessness is the answer to society’s problems comment upon these events? By complete silence, as far as I could see.

How about the British Humanist Society?. Anything to say? Nope.

Anyone know where to get incisive atheist commentary on the British disturbances? I don’t. Looks like the same old story – atheism is all very good, as long as we’re all sitting in comfy armchairs. Once the real world intervenes, however, not so useful…

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11 Responses to The root of all evil?

  1. Absolutely spot on, David.

    If you are an atheist, you don’t believe that God is watching, nor that the acts of this life will shape the next one… because there is no afterlife, only oblivion. For any atheist participating in looting, this was a perfectly rational thing for them to do because they found it both enjoyable and gainful. They were also convinced that they would escape detection (the sharper, more devious ones amongst them did escape detection).

    So it follows that RichardDawkins.net, the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Society would all have little or nothing to say on this subject because atheists have absolutely no rational grounds whatsoever to condemn the looting. Privately, they realise that given less comfortable material circumstances (ie. no down of plenty to snore on, as Berlinski would put it), looting is far more rational than not looting if you believe you’ll get away with it.

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  3. Polly is, sadly, godless, but that article is her explanation of why the bigger state and not a small state are the answer, rather than anything that atheism in particular has to say to the situation. It’s a political, not religious, analysis. (Of course they’re linked; those with no God invariably have to turn to the state).

  4. Really? You wrote a blog post on the fact that Richard Dawkins didn’t respond to an event. Well, I suppose you have an infinite supply of blog posts then, since there are an infinite amount of events he didn’t respond to on his website. Of course this means nothing at all.

  5. For any atheist participating in looting, this was a perfectly rational thing for them to do because they found it both enjoyable and gainful. They were also convinced that they would escape detection (the sharper, more devious ones amongst them did escape detection).

    Well, nobody actually knows how many atheists were involved in the looting. Although I suppose one could poll the various humanist and atheist organizations and find out. Given that there is no data that in general atheists are more prone to crime then the general population, I’d be surprised if the data shows anything significant. What’s possibly more likely is that many of the looters are “non-religious” rather than those who have given this some thought and consider themselves specifically atheist.

    But Chris’s assumed pre-supposition here of how atheists would “rationally” behave, not only does not align with the behavior of most atheists, but is far from “rational”.

    Yes, I suppose as an atheist I do not believe in an afterlife (although technically speaking not believing in gods, doesn’t necessarily preclude an afterlife, but again, the evidence isn’t particularly good). But then that’s the more reason NOT to be involved in looting and other criminal acts. After all, if I think this life is the only life I have, then I need to ensure I have maximum well-being – and the last place for this would not be in jail! So the rational thing for me to do is to follow the law, stay out of trouble and behave as a law-abiding citizen. And one nice thing about doing that is not only is it better for me, it’s better for those I interact with too.

  6. Yeah, but here answer? Big government; as if that has ever worked.

  7. I take that back. It has worked. In the Soviet Union.

  8. So the rational thing for me to do is to follow the law, stay out of trouble and behave as a law-abiding citizen. And one nice thing about doing that is not only is it better for me, it’s better for those I interact with too.

    That’s pretty much what Pol Pot figured.

  9. Polly stated in her article that big government means more police. Well actually, no it doesn’t. In general it means more bureaucrats taking jobs away from police. Besides, Police states are intended to control people, not to protect people.

    Also, having more police is not always the solution to crime in communities; rather, training the police that you do have to be more effective. One thing I learned in working in team situations is that 3 well trained and efficient workers do more than 20 poorly trained non-efficient workers.

    Liberal solutions are usually big government based rather than quality based. Throw a little money out here and there and you’ll have a safe, clean and pleasant society. It doesn’t work that way.

  10. Exactly!

    Atheism is a “nice” thing when the laws of a society are based on Christian morality; not so nice when the laws of a society are based on the idea that God does not exist.

  11. What makes you think this (physical universe) is all there is?

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